Chickens can make really lovable and fun pets. Although they make for an unusual choice, it is possible to bond with them like you do with any other animals such as dogs and cats. To achieve this, you need to understand the nature of chickens. As with most animals, they shun human contact but if you spend the time to interact with them, especially when they are young, you will see the bond slowly developing.
Bear in mind that it is entirely natural for chickens to keep clear of humans. When they see you, their tendency is to run away even though you may have spent time bonding with them. There is no need to feel disheartened by this, as it is their primary survival method (running away from perceived danger). A good way to get them to trust you enough and respond to your presence is to hand raise them from young right after they hatch. Caring and raising them as young chicks will increase their liking and trust for you.
One of the best things about having chicks as pets is their cute appearance and generally docile nature. They look adorable even when they perform simple tasks, like feeding on food you give them or running around chasing each other. You’ll certainly enjoy playing with them or cuddling them in your hands too as they are gentle and will not react negatively to you.
I met once a man who had a pet hen. He rescued her from a chicken farm where she was destined to end up in a pot after laying eggs for many months. She was 6 years old at the time!! An absolutely amazing age for a chicken! She would come to people to be patted. She was very funny to look at. She’d hobble between your legs and crouch in front of you to get a pat. She loved being around people and the old horse who was on the property.
Taking care of young chicks is not tough but requires a little work. Firstly, newborn chicks are susceptible to cold so you need to keep them warm at all times. One way do this is to place a small lamp near where you keep them (usually a shoebox stuffed with paper towels). Be careful not to exceed 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) as it might be too hot. In addition, keep them clean by replacing the surrounding towels daily so they don’t smell or attract dirt and bacteria.
In terms of feeding, take note that the feeds for chicks change as they grow. Food composition is essentially the same but coarseness has to be adapted to their growth. Initially, young chicks consume mashed food best but slowly move on to crumbles and finally pellets as they grow in size.
Do not worry about catering to their appetite as chicks are responsive and picky little creatures so you will know if they like their feed. When the food is to their liking they will peck at it and chirp happily. Conversely, peeking sounds indicate discontentment and you can take the cue to change food coarseness. Water should be supplied to chicks in a small shallow dish weighted with pebbles so that it does not topple easily and they don’t drown.
Once the chicks grow older and are itching for some activity, it is time to take them on dirt runs. Pick an area in your garden with adequate sunlight and watch them indulge in their dirt baths. Keep an eye on them though, as you do not want them to get overly excited and start pecking at your nice lawn or plants!
Don’t let the chicks run wild in an open space as they are easy preys for large birds like eagles and falcons, and of course dogs and cats.
As you spend more time learning about their habits and interacting with them, you will definitely enjoy keeping chickens as pets like you would cats and dogs.